Wild, Miserable West Virginia?
Posted on 02.21.14 by Danny Glover @ 11:49 pm

Ask any West Virginian what he or she thinks of the Mountain State and you’re likely to hear how wild and wonderful it is. The phrase “wild and wonderful” — or sometimes just “wonderful” — has defined the state for decades.

But when city slickers dig a little deeper with probing questions about life, work, physical and emotional health, behaviors, and basic access, West Virginians appear to be a pretty miserable lot.

The evidence is in Gallup-Healthway’s annual “State of American Well-Being” index. The latest report for 2013 was just released, and my home state is dead last — for the fifth year in a row. The only time West Virginia didn’t rank No. 50 was in 2008, the first year of the index, and we were 49th that year.

Cue the negative media coverage of those rednecks in the hills:

Time: “No Americans had as negative an outlook about their future as West Virginians, who rated their projected life in five years the lowest. Additionally, just 44.8 percent of residents described themselves as thriving, the lowest in the nation. West Virginia also had the lowest score for overall emotional health, ranking either the lowest or second-lowest in nearly all of the indicators considered by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Unsurprisingly, residents had less confidence about the future of the U.S. economy than those anywhere else in the nation. Outside of attitudes, West Virginians were also the least physically healthy respondents in the nation. The state had the highest rates of both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the second highest obesity rate. It also had the highest rate of respondents unable to partake in age-appropriate activities.”

National Journal (where I worked for seven years): “Have you been thinking about packing up the family and shipping out to sunny West Virginia? Despite the recent chemical spill, which briefly shut down the water supply for 300,000 residents and ratcheted up extreme pessimism, do you figure the state may still be worth a shot? A new survey out Thursday should give you pause. In a state-by-state survey of well-being in the United States for 2013 by Gallup and Healthways, West Virginia comes in a distant last place. … West Virginia is virtually without peers in relative misery. The state has ranked dead last in well-being since 2009. But before that—in 2008, when the first survey was taken—it was second to last, beat out only by Mississippi.”

The residents of my home state can’t blame the media for this one, though. While their economic circumstances may be beyond their control to some extent, West Virginians voice the negative attitudes and engage in the unhealthy behaviors that repeatedly put them at the bottom of the list.

And yet I still long to live there. I always will.


Filed under: Business and Culture and Health and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
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